With Omar Bah
Kawsu Jammeh, environment education officer at the Parks and Wildlife has said that The Gambia is at the risk of food insecurity if government continues to ignore the realities affecting the environment.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard, Mr Jammeh said there is no or very little political commitment from the current government towards addressing the issues of climate change, deforestation among other negative issues affecting the environment.
He said unless government realises that there cannot be survival without food, water and all these basic necessities, which can only be generated when the environment is friendly, they would not take issues of environmental preservation in the forefront of national development.
“As we speak government takes environment as something useless. I think everything should start with political will, but recently the president put up his developmental agenda and the recognition that was given to environment did not satisfy us as environmentalists,” he said.
He continued: “We want the government to know that the backbone of every country is agriculture and agriculture is dependent on better environment. We can never have better produce without a good environment.”
“We cannot continue to utilise all our money to buy persistent organic pollutants to enforce productivity when that is creating even more problems. It is a kind of ramification, you are trying to deal with one problem and end up creating 10 problems. So, for me my advice to President Barrow and his government is very simple let them put environment issues in the forefront of national development,” he urged.
He said if he was in the position of the president, he would have put environmental issues at the forefront of national development, “And believe me, the whole world will make us an example, everything will be an example from Gambia because we can make a better economy out of green economy.
“We have land that we can cultivate enough rice, we have lot of fresh water no need to manipulate anything…we don’t need to build any dam somewhere and change salt water; we have enough rice fields but what is happening? Nothing! We think China will come and help to feed us. I believe we should start thinking how we can feed ourselves, our ancestors were doing the same thing why not us?” he quizzed.
He said government should invest more in conservation, which he said will generate more money. “We have seen Senegal putting lot of money at The Niokolo-Koba National Park and they are generating lot of money from tourism but look at this country where even sectors are divided; GTA and so on and so forth, will want to make greater achievements without the support of other departments. I don’t see how a government can thrive in that way.”
“The reality is government must put environmental issues at the forefront of national development, without that we will never feed ourselves. Let me tell you one problem, we have less food, go to CRR there is climate change problem all the low lands areas that used to be rice fields are all overloaded which makes it impossible for rice cultivation because those farming there don’t have the capacity,” he stressed.
Jammeh said: “Famers in that area are only left with few upland rice fields to grow, meaning they no more have enough food to eat. So we say we were growing more food now we are growing less food because sanitization is taking over all the places. Go to Lamin, there was a verse rice field but now the sea is coming towards us and is taking part of those fields.”
“So it looks like we are going into a situation of food insecurity in the country, because the environment is dwindling. If the environment is in a good shape, we will be in a good shape. A population living in a better environment is different with a population that is living in a poor environment,” he asserted.
The president, he added, should know environment issues are important.
“The ministry of environment is more important than the finance ministry because the environment can ensure sustainability and create finance….anything you believe is useful the environment can create it.”
“People are travelling from the US to Tanzania just to see a lion, why can’t we have a lion in the Gambia? We have the nature that can hold, it is just a matter of government investing little bit of money but they never did,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the waterbirds census, which the wildlife department commences few days back, Mr Jammeh said the international waterbirds census has been yearly undertaken by his department since 1997.
“We have what we called the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971,” he said.
Jammeh added: “Wetlands are where migrating waterbirds are visiting yearly and it calls for important waterbirds sides. All the countries that are on the RAMSAR list, have to conduct this research to ensure that sides hosting 1% of a particular species of bird, for example there are two colonies of royal birds one in South America and one in West Africa. So, we knew in 1990 the population was only 80, 000 so if we are able to determine 1% of that population at least 8, 000 of that population is in the country then we will be qualify to be part of the RAMSAR society.” The research, he said, is conducted everywhere in the world since 1997, “What we do is go into the field to visit sides we choose already to look at the kind of waterbirds we found and how much of each piece is there and also what are the other parameters.
What is the tide, whether it is high or low tide and what is the water coverage, what are the kinds of plant pieces, what are the land uses among others?”
“So, it is really very important for us, because we have never done wildlife inventory but water birds research we have been doing it for the past 20-years and now we have lot of experience in terms of water birds and how to manage them. We also have about 22 protected areas, but almost 14 of them are completely wetland and they are habitats of water birds. This is because Gambia is centered on river Gambia, so we have much to do with wetlands water birds,” he said.
Mr Jammeh said in managing resources one needs to understand the resources he/she is managing very well.
“Alot of waterbird watchers who are following these birds follow them from one landing place to another and they are following them to our country to enjoy the local species that we have in the country….that is generating lot of income for the country,” he said.
He said the other thing is knowledge based, “We need to develop the knowledge based of the country…we need to do research, we need to know what is here and put it in black and white for the world and our people to know….We have to preserve knowledge as well about our culture, about our heritage, because nature is also part of culture…our forefathers were leaving with the same thing.”
RAMSAR convention, Jammeh said, is signed among 166 countries, “The countries have agreed to help countries with less facility for them to be able to manage these resources. If you see someone in Germany investing his money in the Gambia is because that area also affects him that’s what we call nature there is no boundary. For us the planet is a village our species don’t know boundaries they are moving all around.”
Abdoulie Sawo, the coordinator echo-tourism said the research is funded by the Warder Sea (Germany) and coordinated by wetland international.